Last time on the blog, we broke down how the two verses prior to Phil 4:6 provide some guidance to help with anxiety. If you happened to miss that post, you can read it here. Today, we are going to go through verses 6-8.
Verse 6 follows instructions from verses 4-5 to rejoice in God, examine thought process for reasonableness, and understand God is right here. What comes next, “Do not be anxious about anything,” makes sense in light of the entire context. This verse is not meant to produce guilt for worrying. Now don’t get me wrong, Paul has been known to lay the smack down on some people when necessary (1 Corinthians), but this is a different letter. With love and appreciation, Paul is thanking the Phillipians for supporting him financially, giving ministry updates, and encouraging their walk with the Lord. Even though Paul was under house arrest at the time, he was joyful because he was seeing the work of God all around him. If anyone had a reason to be anxious, it was Paul. He was not just writing words that sounded good. He was living this stuff out.
Let your Requests be Made Known to God
“In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (verse 6). There is absolutely nothing in my life I can worry about that I can’t pray about. I was driving to work one morning, and I was praying about something. I don’t even remember what it was. When I got done, I was actually apologizing to God about my prayer! I was like, “Well God, I know this is really just a first world problem, and I shouldn’t even be bothered by this or worried about it, so I’m sorry I even brought that up.” That was the day God spoke to me that all my prayers are important to Him, even the ones I see as silly or trivial in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s talk about this “with thanksgiving” part. What do you have to be thankful for? What good things has God done in your life? Are you healthy? Is there a friend He has blessed you with? Are your bills paid? Do you have not everything you want, but everything you need? Be thankful. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17a). If there’s something good in your life, God put it there. I can also be thankful when I pray that God hears me, and will answer even if it’s not the way I expect or in the timeframe I expect Him to. I can thank Him for how He is going to work in this situation or how I will experience Him in a way that maybe I haven’t yet before.
Here comes the promise, and this is the best part! “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (verse 7). You have been promised peace. This is great news. I think sometimes we confuse peace with circumstances going well, things working in our favor, or a warm, fuzzy feeling. Peace is a sense that even though circumstances are not lining up the way I want or I don’t see a way out of this mess, I have a deep knowing in my spirit that it will somehow be OK because of God’s divine intervention in my life. God has this situation taken care of before I even ask. Oftentimes, we rob ourselves of peace by not doing the things contained in the verses prior- praising God, recognizing his presence, thanking Him, and requesting intervention.
As a caveat here, I know some people struggle with a high level of physiological anxiety, which in my therapy experience, is usually connected to some type of past trauma. You may need physical and emotional intervention along with spiritual intervention. That is OK. I have had several clients in therapy who had a sense of spiritual peace even though they were physically and emotionally anxious.
Think on These Things
Last, but not least is verse 8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This verse is a refrain of verses 4-6, but important subjects are worth the repetition. I could probably write a whole post on this one verse, but if you were wondering what to think about, here is the litmus test.
Now, you don’t choose what pops in randomly, but you do choose what you dwell on (exception of OCD). Learning to switch thoughts from something that is negative or anxiety provoking to something that is positive takes practice, intentionality, and time. You can learn to change the channel in your mind. How about starting by memorizing some of the above verses, so you have a positive go to?
My hope is that this post and the last have provided perspective shift on, “Do not be anxious,” not as a command, but perhaps a desire from Paul for people to experience the same peace that he had found in Christ. I’d love to hear what you think as well as other topics you’d like me to address on the blog.